Solutions to juvenile crime – it depends on who you ask
If you want to know the answers, you first have to ask the questions.
In October, a group of community members was doing the asking. Their topic was juvenile crime, and the target group – their neighbors.
The survey, overseen by the Community Oversight Council, is part of the Community Engagement Process. Lynn Nolan, director of the council, said the engagement process has been used successfully in other California localities to find out about juvenile crime perceptions at the local level.
Surveyors knocked on more than 1,200 doors in the Bijou and Tahoe Valley school district boundaries, and completed a survey including 29 percent of the households. Adults and teens both participated in a community forum to design the survey, and both interviewed their respective age groups.
The differences between the adult and teen perceptions were marked. While 86 percent of adults felt a teen center would “help a lot” in the community, only 37 percent of teens asked felt the same. Teens rated more jobs for young people as the most positive thing for the community. More jobs for teens didn’t make it on to the adult list.
Nolan said the answers to the survey don’t provide answers, but a tool for the community.
“These are opinions it doesn’t mean it’s reality,” Nolan explained. “It allows people to identify some issues they may want to address in their community.”
There were also different perceptions between communities. The adult Bijou respondents were more likely to say that drug abuse and addiction, family conflict, teen pregnancy, crime and child abuse were big problems.
The next step is another forum, Nolan said. A representative from Philliber Research Associates, the company who put together the survey results, will be on hand Jan. 20 at Bijou Community School’s multi-purpose room. Nolan said that after the survey is discussed, groups of adults and teens will break off to identify what they feel are the top areas of concern. The groups will then come back together and hopefully come up with what they feel are the top juvenile issues in South Lake Tahoe.
Nolan said the council hopes this forum will birth community action groups.
“A lot of times the community doesn’t know how to become involved or if their opinion will matter,” Nolan said. “It’s important to get the community involved in seeing some kind of solution.”
Funding for the survey came out of a $4 million grant from the California Office of Child Abuse Prevention and the Stuart Foundation. South Lake Tahoe was one of 12 sites around the state selected for funds. The grant runs from January 1996 to June 2000, and the money is being spread between five different local agencies.
“So far, this has been an excellent way to get the community involved in finding their own solutions,” Nolan said. “Anyone can come to the next forum. They didn’t have to be involved in the survey process.”
The Community Oversight Council’s dinner forum will be Jan. 20 from 5 to 8 p.m. in the multi-purpose room at Bijou Community School. The public is welcome, and those planning to attend are asked to RSVP with Tim Jones at the Family Resource Center (530) 542-0740.
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